Parliamentary committee for legal affairs discussed on March 19 draft amendments to the law on common courts, which has been revised following recommendations from the Venice Commission.
“Many of the Venice Commission’s recommendations are taken into consideration, but not 100 percent,” Deputy Justice Minister Alexander Baramidze told lawmakers during the parliamentary committee hearing.
UNM lawmakers have complained that the Justice Ministry ignored some of the key recommendations from the Venice Commission, which is Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs.
Changing rule of composition of the High Council of Justice, a body overseeing judicial system, is the key point of the proposed amendments.
According to the proposal eight members of HCoJ will be judges elected by the judiciary’s self-governing body, Conference of Judges, as it is under the existing rules, but the proposal envisages significant changes in the procedures of electing judges. Six members will be elected by the Parliament from candidates nominated by legal advocacy non-governmental organizations; law schools and law departments of various universities and Georgian Bar Association; now two members are appointed by the President and four seats are occupied by lawmakers.
The Venice Commission, which said that the proposals were in overall representing progress for the independence of HCoJ, recommended against complete renewal of the existing HCoJ.
According to the draft, discussed by the parliamentary committee for legal affairs, the Parliament and the Conference of Judges should elect members of HCoJ in line with new regulations within one month, instead of initially envisaged three weeks, after the amendments go into force.
The Venice Commission recommended against banning chairpersons of courts and their deputies, as well as chairpersons of chambers and collegiums to be elected as members of the HCoJ by the Conference of Judges. The Venice Commission, however, also said it was possible to limit the maximum number of chairpersons of the courts and chambers who could sit on the HCoJ.
Deputy Justice Minister Alexander Baramidze told lawmakers on March 19, that the revised draft will still ban chairpersons of courts and their deputies from being elected as members of HCoJ. No such blanket ban, however, will apply to chairperson of boards and collegiums, according to Baramidze, but the Conference of Judges will be able to elect only maximum three such members of the HCoJ.
The Venice Commission also recommended introducing a mechanism through which the opposition lawmakers will have their say in electing those six members of HCoJ, which should be confirmed by the Parliament. In particular, the Commission offered either to make confirmation of candidates by the Parliament with two-thirds of majority or by some proportional method.
Baramidze told lawmakers on March 19, that the Justice Ministry was against of six members of HCoJ to be elected by two-third majority. The Deputy Justice Minister argued that such high bar was not envisaged for any other post in the country that is confirmed by the Parliament. “Even the second highest ranking official in the country – the Parliamentary Chairman, does not require two-third majority of parliamentarians’ vote to be elected on this post,” Baramidze said and added that imposing such high bar for the members of HCoJ would be “not logical”.
UNM lawmaker Pavle Kublashvili offered GD coalition to allow the parliamentary minority group to select at least one member of HCoJ from the list of candidates nominated by legal advocacy non-governmental organizations, law schools and bar association. GD lawmaker Vakhtang Khmaladze, who chairs the parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said that this proposal should be addressed by the Parliament, when it starts elaborating separately detailed procedures for electing six members of HCoJ.